Let's say that a show strongly hints at the possibility of Susie having lost a baby as a teenager. Almost all of the fans accept this, but the hints are vague enough so that they can also be interpreted to support the idea that the baby that died was Susie's younger sister. Confirmation for the supporters of the first theory would come in the form of Susie over-empathizing with a mother who has just lost her baby and being very tight-lipped when Joe asks her why (why would be tight lipped if it was her sister?) and getting teary-eyed when watching mothers interact with their children. So while Susie losing her sister fits with the hints (though not as well as the more widely accepted story), it doesn't explain either of these situations, where Susie losing her daughter does.

Of course, there are alternate explanations for both of these situations, but really only one that explains them both, and the show has already hinted at it repeatedly.

This is where writers want to include an idea -- any element contributing to the plot or a character -- in canon, but don't want to explicitely state it. As a work-around, the writers hint at the idea until it's [[{{Fanon}} accepted by most of the fandom]].

These hints are usually strong enough that most of the fandom gets the right idea fairly quickly, but not so strong that they can't be ignored or attributed to something else if the viewer dislikes the idea being hinted at. The point is, after all, getting the idea across to a large portion of the fandom while offering a less convenient, but still plausible, alternate explanation for those viewers who don't want to believe.

This tactic is most often employed when writers want to include an element such as mental illness, rape, in older shows, homosexuality, or another sensitive topic in a plotline or a character's backstory as a means of plot or character development, but don't want to explicitly state it to avoid controversy or alienating certain viewers.

If the hints are particularly weak or ambiguous, it can be difficult to determine if they are deliberate or merely a coincidence. Short of a WordOfGod confirmation of intent, the easiest way to establish this is if the idea is built on as if it was canon. Bear in mind also that, for this trope to apply, the fanon has to result from the hints. If the fanon existed with more than a few supporters before the idea was hinted at it's just fanon.

This trope is most common in live TV shows, but shows up in other mediums fairly often as well.

For when this happens with a ship, see ShipTease. Can result from intentional CanonFodder. Contrast with WildMassGuessing.


[[folder: Anime & Manga ]]

* KenAkamatsu's ''Manga/MahouSenseiNegima'', ''Manga/LoveHina'', and ''Manga/AILoveYou'' are ''heavily'' implied to be set in the same {{Verse}}. He can't outright state this because of legal issues.
* It is hinted several times in ''{{Slayers}}'' that Naga is Amelia's older sister.
* The [[VideoGame/PokemonBlackAndWhite Striaton Trio]] from Manga/PokemonSpecial really being the mysterious [[TerribleTrio Shadow Triad]] of Team Plasma, due to the overwhelming hints. The fact that it's a common theory for the games and anime helps.
** [[spoiler: And despite all those hints, this theory is eventually jossed with the Striaton Trio battling the Triad.]]
** For an example dating back all the way to the first generation, it was assumed for years by fans that Mr. Fuji, of Lavender Town, was the scientist who created Mewtwo in the games, who then retired to the Pokémon Tower to repent. Though Mewtwo's creator in [[Anime/PokemonTheFirstMovie the movie]] is called ''Dr.'' Fuji, [[YouDontLookLikeYou he looks nothing like his game counterpart]] and their personalities are very different -- however, this is par for the course for the early anime, so it deterred no one from thinking that it is true in game canon as well as anime canon. Despite one line of dialogue that might ''possibly'' suggest that Game!Fuji was at Cinnabar Island at the time that Mewtwo was cloned[[note]]though all it says is that he is friends with Blaine, and [[PixelHunt few people would have read it before the remakes came out]][[/note]] there was still no clear evidence that Mr. Fuji even knows of Mewtwo's existence. However, the ''Anime/PokemonOrigins'' special ''does'' have him be the only person in Kanto who knows about Mewtwo, but still does not go out and say that he in particular cloned him. Most fans have taken it as confirmation, though.
* At no point is it ever actually stated that ''LightNovel/HaruhiSuzumiya'' is set in the author's hometown of Nishinomiya. [[NoCommunitiesWereHarmed It is just very strongly implied.]]
* ''Series/AxisPowersHetalia'': Himaruya has flirted with the idea that Germany is Holy Roman Empire with a memory loss for a long time, but he has yet to confirm it.


[[folder: Film ]]

* Creator/JudeLaw and Creator/RobertDowneyJr discussed the HoYay between Franchise/SherlockHolmes and [[TheWatson John Watson]] at length in interviews to the point of leading several groups into believing (with either [[YaoiFangirl positive]] or [[HeteronormativeCrusader negative]] reactions) that the gay subtext between the characters would actually become ''text'' within the film. The [[Film/SherlockHolmes actual film portrayal]] is a fairly straightforward {{Bromance}} between two HeterosexualLifePartners who both have female love interests.


[[folder: Literature ]]

* ''Literature/TheNeverEndingStory'' was basically written with the idea that its readers would write their own stories.


[[folder: Live Action TV ]]

* From ''Series/{{NCIS}}'', Ziva having been [[spoiler:raped in Somalia]]. It was hinted at by Gibbs and Vance throughout the beginning of the seventh season and is widely accepted fanon.
** The idea is further used throughout the seventh and eighth seasons to help develop Ziva as a character, as well as her relationships with other characters, most substantially Gibbs, Tony, and her father, but remains non-canon.
* Renee Walker having been raped on ''Series/TwentyFour''. While it was pretty evident that she was raped by Vladimir Laitanan during the events of Day 8, the writers never more than hinted at the idea that she was also raped when she was undercover with the Russians before. This is one of the most widely accepted pieces of fanon in the 24 fandom, many fans even considering it canon.
** This idea is later used to help validate what Renee ends up doing to Laitanan.
* From ''Series/{{Bones}}'', Brennan having Asperger's Syndrome was an example of this until she was given a WordOfGod diagnosis. [[DeathOfTheAuthor It's still an example of this if you don't consider the Word of God to be]] [[{{Canon}} canonical]].
* In ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'', the reason for [[spoiler:[[AlasPoorVillain Bela Talbot]]'s DealWithTheDevil to [[SelfMadeOrphan kill her parents]] being because [[AbusiveParents her father molested her and her mother didn't intervene]]]]. There's also the pretty widespread theory floating around that [[spoiler:Bela]] was the "weeping bitch" Alastair mentioned in "On the Head of a Pin" as [[spoiler:the first soul Dean tortured in Hell and thus the first seal broken to free Lucifer]].
* In ''Series/PowerRangersRPM'', various characters have {{Ambiguous Disorder}}s: Dr. K has NoSocialSkills, and {{Sixth Ranger}}s Gem and Gemma have all the emotional maturity of five-year-olds. All three were [[ChildProdigy Child Prodigies]] that were abducted from their homes and denied normal childhoods, spending most of their lives in a military think tank called Alphabet Soup, so most fans blame that for inflicting emotional abuse on them.
* [[Series/DoctorWho The Doctor's]] MysteriousPast has had messy implications heaped on it by every passing writer for the past fifty two years:
** The First Doctor is implied to be an outlaw, exiled from his home planet and forbidden from returning. Later fans and writers have run with the implication, as well as some EarlyInstallmentWeirdness, to suggest his fear of interfering with past events (or, from a Doylist perspective, the fact that only the first Doctor ever had purely historical adventures) is to avoid catching the attention of the Time Lords, and that he left Susan on earth in the 2164 so that she wouldn't be caught by them as well.
** The outlaw characterization is played up with the Second Doctor, who further implies he's the only survivor of his family. The Doctor's race is finally named for the first time, but their punishment of him complicates the circumstances under which he left his home world in the first place, raising the question of whether he's cast out from his people or if he escaped. In his final story, we meet his people in the form of both the Time Lords in general, as well as a particular one titled (but never named) as "The War Chief", who wears a dark jacket, a DastardlyWhiplash goatee, and who's using mind control powers to try and take over the galaxy.
** The Third Doctor's more aristocratic bearing was retroactively applied to the character, playing up the idea of him having been a "Lord of Time" more seriously than the first two Doctors really ever seemed to. The Third Doctor tells stories of having been an aimless, unhappy aristocratic child on a boring, yet beautiful world. We're introduced to the Master, a fellow Time Lord who wears a dark jacket, a DastardlyWhiplash goatee, and who's using mind control powers to try and take over the galaxy, whose relationship to the War Chief is never made clear in the actual program. He also tells stories of a mentor who helped him who is strongly implied to be the Time Lord that eventually helps him to regenerate into...
** The Fourth Doctor's immediate and urgent abandonment of Earth in general and UNIT in particular was likewise projected onto the past incarnations of the character, reframing his escape from Gallifrey as having been not because of some obscure but terrible crime or the death of his family, but more because he just couldn't sit still for one more second when he had the option to travel all of time and space. Even when given the opportunity to rule Gallifrey and "fix it" as he sought fit, he eagerly left it behind. Around this time, the concept of "Renegades" became somewhat more solid: The Doctor and the Master were so called because their actual names are, to some degree left to Fanon to clarify, unspeakable. The Fourth Doctor also was seemingly intended by long time writer Robert Holmes to be the final (or, at least, penultimate) Doctor, when it was revealed that Time Lords only have 12 regenerations, and an episode seemed to imply the Doctor had held 8 different faces before the televised first Doctor.
** The Fifth Doctor's era brought with it a change in how his relationship with the Master was viewed. The idea of the Master as a supervillainous arch-nemesis had been clear since the beginning, but a long run of Master-centric stories in the Fifth Doctor's run shifted it to more of the Master being a [[FoeYay Doctor-obsessed troll]].
** The Sixth Doctor's era cast the Doctor's wildly-inconsistent personalities into new light by revealing a possible future incarnation, a rules-obsessed LawfulEvil lackey of Gallifrey known as the Valeyard (which Fanon has interpreted to mean "a Doctor of Law"). The exact nature of the Valeyard is so ambiguous, though, that every sinister turn the Doctor has taken since then has been identified as the Valeyard (Grandfather Paradox, The Meta-Crisis Tenth Doctor, the Flesh Ganger Doctor, even the War Doctor when he was first introduced as a cliffhanger), a title it was recently confirmed the Doctor will yet someday bear.
** The Seventh Doctor brought with him the Cartmel Masterplan, an attempt to infuse the character with more mystery and power after decades of Gallifrey stories had robbed him of his uniqueness. The implications the show played with were stark, casting the Doctor as a PhysicalGod of Gallifrey who stepped down and fled in a past far more distant than had been implied before. The further implications were made clear in the ExpandedUniverse, where the Doctor was revealed to maybe be the re-incarnation of the Other, one of the holy trinity of the Time Lords (the other two being Rassilon and Omega, the BigGood and BigBad of earlier episodes), but the books are of ambiguous canon.
** The Eighth Doctor's somewhat absent era [[FanficFuel makes it rife]] for fandom interpretation. When the series returned with the Ninth Doctor, the implication was that the horrors of the Time War had been experienced by the Eighth Doctor, a somewhat inoffensive and charming character for whom it would all be [[TheWoobie terribly crushing]] to have to experience. Conveniently, the books had been wrapped up in an incredibly dense and yet incredibly unclear narrative about a war in time that destroyed Gallifrey for years by that point, so Fandom set about merging the two concepts in various ways. The Eighth Doctor was also the Doctor who ([[IncrediblyLamePun heh heh]]) infamously declared himself half-human, but in circumstances where he could be either joking or lying. The film seems to treat the words literally, implying one half of his body is human and the other half is not, just further complicating matters.
** The Ninth Doctor's era introduced the Time War to the series, creating a new justification for why he was the most important and unique of all Time Lords (namely, [[TheLastOfHisKind the rest were all dead]]). It also seemed to imply that the first ever companion, the Doctor's granddaughter Susan, was dead as well. Other mysteries lurk in the Ninth Doctor's era, mostly revolving around how fresh his face was in his first episode and whether he knew or had anything to do with Jack Harkness's past life. The big mystery, though, is whether the Ninth Doctor A: is canonically Bisexual, and/or B: is the first Bisexual Doctor.
** In the Tenth Doctor's era, the show again flirted with the implications of the Other, with characters noting that the Doctor was something strange, mythic, and terrifying even by Time Lord standards. The Tenth Doctor's era also introduced the aforementioned Meta-Crisis Doctor, who (due to retcons) ended up being numerically correct for the Valeyard's "between your twelfth and final incarnations" placement and was born of blood and battle and fury, and who would age and be unable to regenerate, all of which lead to some very common fanon regarding his fate. This was also the era where the running title gag of "Doctor Who?" started to gain more significance, with [[InThePastEveryoneWillBeFamous Madame de Pompadour]] declaring it "More than just a secret". Elsewhere, the era raised questions of what the Doctor's relationships with his companions [[ShipTease really are, and really have been]]. The finale also featured a mysterious character who Fanon has made numerous vocal identifications of, the loudest being that she's the Doctor's long lost mother.
** The Eleventh Doctor's era recast the entire name issue as being tied up in a prophecy regarding the most mythic event in the new series: the Time War (though numerous RedHerring reveals along the way confused matters). Also, as the series went on, a great number of plot threads were LeftHanging [[CutShort due to time or casting constraints]], leaving much of River Song's biography and the overarching MythArc ambiguous and up to Fanon to clarify.


[[folder: Video Games ]]

* Though it is never ''explicitly'' spelled out, the clues add up enough so well that fans of ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVIII'' universally accept the idea that [[spoiler:Laguna is TheHero Squall's father.]]


[[folder: Web Comic ]]

* In ''Webcomic/TheOrderOfTheStick'', Belkar Bitterleaf's asked if he caused the death of Roy, Miko, Miko's stupid horse, or the oracle, and got a "yes" answer. When Roy fell several hundred feet onto the ground to his death, many fans assumed this fulfilled the requirements, because without Belkar, Roy would not have been able to engage Xykon for that particular fight and thus would not have died. Later it turned out that the prophecy was less ambiguous as when told this by the Oracle, Belkar doesn't buy it and promptly stabs him to death. The reason why it's here is because in the compilation comic, [[WordOfGod Rich Burlew]] says he deliberately set this trope up so he could subvert it.


[[folder: Web Original ]]

* Project Freelancer in ''Machinima/RedVsBlue'' was ''probably'' a project competing with the SPARTAN program, based on Washington's remarks that "there were dozens of projects all trying to come up with the magic bullet to win" during the war with the aliens, [[WordOfGod Burnie]] saying Dr. Church used to work with Dr. Halsey (who was behind the SPARTAN program), and so on, but Spartans are never actually mentioned in-series, aside from semi-canonical references to Master Chief [[EarlyInstallmentWeirdness in the first episode]] and some of the PSAs.
** On a similar note, the aliens are pretty strongly hinted to be the Covenant, with their worship of ancient technology, the war with the UNSC ending around the time of the switch to Halo 3 machinima, etc. But they're only ever called "the aliens" in the show (except, again, in the first episode and some PSAs).


[[folder: Western Animation ]]

* In ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender'', Zuko's mother was banished for committing "treasonous acts", however it's never stated what these acts were. Coincidentally, she was banished right around the time Fire Lord Azulon died. It was widely believed amongst the fanbase that she was responsible for his death [[spoiler:[[IKnewIt until it was finally confirmed to be the case in Season 3]]]].
* Someone on the fan list for ''WesternAnimation/AdventuresOfTheGalaxyRangers'' (where several of the show's writers lurk) brought up the disturbing possibility that the Queen didn't put Zachary in the Psychocrypt right after his capture, but decided to [[IHaveYouNowMyPretty take out some frustrations on him first]], especially since the scene where she's standing over his unconscious body was dripping with some disturbing FoeYay. One of the writers delurked to admit that the writers themselves had very off-color speculations about Her Majesty's sex life. It's about a 50-50 split in the fandom whether she "just" used MindRape, or went for something more... inappropriate for a animated show.
* ''WesternAnimation/AdventureTime'''s creator [[WordOfGod confirms]] that [[CrapsaccharineWorld Ooo]] is supposed to be our world AfterTheEnd when TheMagicComesBack, but the show never states it outright. It does offer hints, though--backgrounds include ruined pieces of society, characters make reference to things from before "the Great Mushroom War," etc. A flashback to [[OurVampiresAreDifferent Marceline]]'s childhood seems to be set when the disaster is in progress.
** Confirmed in writing as of "I Remember You," with [[spoiler: Simon Petrikov's]] letters speaking of being left alone in the "wreckage of the world" with [[spoiler: toddler Marceline]] and another outright mention of the war.
** Another example is the VERY popular theory that Princess Bubblegum and Marceline used to date. WordOfGod has gone back and forth on this one, and the writers try to sneak in as much [[LesYay subtext]] as they can.
* In the ''WesternAnimation/StevenUniverse'' episode "Rose's Scabbard", a flashback shows Pearl affirming her loyalty to Rose Quartz [[spoiler:implied to be just before the battle against the Homeworld Gems for Earth.]] The scene contains a symbolic representation of a knight swearing loyalty to a monarch, making it clear at least Pearl was deeply loyal to Rose. However, some lines could be interpreted as romantic, at least on Pearl's end. This presents her highly-protective, almost motherly behavior towards Steven in a very different light. Most fans assume Pearl is genuinely in love with her, though WordOfGod has so far remained ambiguous. This series is written and created by Rebecca Sugar, who wrote many aforementioned Marceline and Princess Bubblegum episodes stated above, interpret that how you will.